A small group of students gathered in El Instituto on Tuesday for a screening of segments of “Pose” and “Vida” in order to have a conversation on the experiences and representations of members of the Latinx LGBTQ+ community.
The “Pose” episode centered on a transgender woman, Blanca (Mj Rodriguez), having to come face to face with the family that had disowned her when she came out, after the death of her birth mother. Blanca struggles throughout the episode on how to forgive her mother who had told the entire family she was dead to save face, and to instead remember the good times, like when the two of them had cooked together. Throughout the episode, Blanca’s chosen family from her ball culture house stands by her and gives her emotional support, while her birth family continues to reject her on the basis of homophobia.
Similarly, the “Vida” episode centered on a pair of Mexican-American sisters, Lyn (Melissa Barrera) and Emma (Mishel Prada), who return home after their mother’s death only to find out that their mother had been secretly married to a woman for the past two years. This aggravates Emma, who had been rejected by her mother on the grounds of her identity as a queer woman.
Two student representatives from the Rainbow Center — Tatyanna Molina, a third-semester sociology and WGSS double major, and Avem Kelley, a fifth-semester WGSS and human rights double major — came to talk about the two episodes from an LGBTQ+ perspective.
Molina and Kelley explained how self-hatred and superiority complexes are often prevalent in the different identities in the LGBTQ+ community. This was expressed in “Vida” when Emma uses extremely homophobic slurs when she finds out her previously homophobic mother had married a woman behind her back. Emma’s anger stems from the hypocrisy of her mother’s cruel reaction to her early signs of sexuality, such as when she kissed a girl when she was 11, which had involved shipping her off to another state. One girl at the discussion described this as a circle of internalized pity, and explained that she often catches herself pitying others in her situation in her own life as an LGBTQ+ woman with disabilities.
Being that both these episodes feature LGBTQ+ Latina women in Blanca and Emma, it is possible that some of the characters’ expressions toward their sexualities also stem from the specific idea of femininity in Latinx culture. During the discussion, one student explained that there are certain expectations for women in Latinx culture, and an extreme fear of the unknown when people don’t meet those expectations. Molina and Kelley explained that many families, even outside the Hispanic and Latinx community, have a “this will just go away” mentality, and that this was clearly shown by the rejections of the main characters in both episodes.
Students in the discussion expressed how much they appreciated that “Pose” and “Vida” offer representation for Hispanic members of the LGBTQ+ community. “Pose” is especially important for depicting transgender women of color, since there is almost no representation of them in any other show. Students liked that these shows express different experiences of queerness, family dynamics and lifestyles of individuals in the LGBTQ+ community. Molina and Kelley explained that it’s a dynamic community, and one that cannot just fit under one experiential umbrella term.
“This is my first time seeing anything from these — ‘Pose’ has been on my watch list for a long time — but I think it’s really important for these intersectional identities to be represented, both because they make people feel seen because people don’t just have one identity, they have a lot of identities, and seeing other people who share those intersecting identities and seeing their struggles and their experiences can be really important for people,” Kelley said.
Being that these shows are offered on an accessible platform like Netflix, a larger number of people can learn about and build empathy toward people in these communities, to an extent that has never been possible before.
“[These shows] help people who might not have those identities get a little bit more understanding of what living with those identities is like, so that if they ever encounter or make friends with or interact with anyone who has any of those identities, they can be a little bit more understanding, a little bit more supportive and won’t enact a lot of the microaggressions that a lot of people face on a day-to-day basis,” Kelley said.
Because the only TV shows available before now have depicted mostly white gay or lesbian people, LGBTQ+ people of color, like some of the students at the discussion, felt alone. They explained that if they had shows like “Vida” and “Pose” available to them when they were younger, it would have positively affected how they viewed themselves and may have caused them to come out to their families differently.
“I think any open dialogue regarding intersectionality is extremely important,” Molina said. “I feel like we tend to isolate communities when in reality people have layered identities, so it’s really important to talk about shows like ‘Pose’ and ‘Vida’ that address topics of being Hispanic, for example, and also being queer, and what the experiences are like and how they differ from cis white gay men stories that are so commonly told. So I think it’s good to have open dialogue about people’s personal stories and how it affects their everyday lives.”
The group was very friendly and felt comfortable opening up and connecting with each other based on their own experiences with their sexual identities and how others perceive them. At the close of the discussion, they felt more like friends than the collection of strangers that had started out as in the beginning.
Rebecca Maher is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.